I’ve had so many close calls this year that I no longer think about how I might celebrate in this space if an outright pick wins. I did, though, until pretty recently. When Bob Estes had a great chance to win a few weeks ago I’d started to write in my mind: Bob Estes, you are the man!
Bob Estes’s balls are so big he has to cart them around in a wheel barrow, he needs a second caddie for his nuts! And so on. There would have been a lot of Bob Estes and exclamation points.
Esticles was long odds and would have gotten me back on track in a big way, so you can understand how stoked I would have been if he won. If you’ve been following this space or following golf, you know he didn’t win. He finished in the top-10, which is kissing your sister in golf handicapping.
Estes finished T6 last week, his third top-10 this year, which was six spots behind Zach Johnson, who won the AT&T Classic in a playoff with Ryuji Imada. I picked ZJ in the head-to-head and outright. Kissing your sister? I want to make out with the earnest young man from Iowa who could’ve played Joaquin Phoenix playing Johnny Cash. Zach Johnson, how do you do??
It wasn’t an easy win. Beaf stew in the undies (sorry, but it’s tough to get away from the toilet humor and testicle talk once you start) when I watched Imada get up and down from the sand for birdie on No. 18 to tie Johnson, who’d made his birdie in the group before for the outright lead. Then on the playoff hole, also 18, Imada went slightly left, just in the rough, and after an inconclusive session on the therapist’s couch in his head, chose the ballsy approach and realized the Mickelsonian consequences of such a move. Splash.
Johnson, way down in the fairway from Imada, saw this but stuck with his game plan---going for the green in two after his perfect drive. He didn’t let Imada’s misfortunes change his approach after the great drive. That’s why the dude won the Masters: he makes up his mind and hits the ball. It’s strategic, never about big brass balls for the sake of it, but he’s going to be a poster boy nonetheless for those who don’t have brain size to match ball size. The difference is, Johnson has a plan. We saw that at Augusta. We saw it in Liverpool last year with Tiger. We see it a lot, in fact, in sports and life. Tiger and Johnson won conservatively, not bombastically. They won because they had smart plans and executed them.
So last week was a big double win, though at 10-1 in the outright and 1/6 unit, Johnson’s win only paid at 1.7 units. In the head-to-head, taking Johnson over Stewart Cink at 10-11, 1 unit, I netted .9 units. That’s a total of 2.6 for the week. The season tally is now -5.8 units.
This week: Who’s going to steal the towel at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club? It won’t be Tiger. He doesn’t need any towels and he’s not playing. Only four players in the top 20 world rankings are. It’s anyone’s guess. Here are mine:
In the outright, take David Toms (33-1), 1/6 unit: It’s really only a matter of when, and a 7,000-yard layout, not a bomber’s paradise, might get him back in the winning circle. See below for his recent run at Colonial.
Take Scott Verplank (40-1), 1/6 unit: Misgivings picking Verplank in recent years because he hadn’t won since 2001 despite being a guy who was consistently good over those years and had a lot of close calls. But he won the EDS Byron Nelson Classic last month and he’s managed well at Colonial over the years. Crafty player.
Take Nick O’Hern (50-1), 1/6 unit: Mediocre year despite two top-10s in WGC events (including knocking off Tiger in match play). Similar in style to Verplank and Toms---short and straight, good iron player---he needs to get the straight back. He’s struggling with driving accuracy. Last year he finished T12.
In the head-to-head, take Toms over Ken Duke (4-5), 1 unit: Toms in 2007: 12 events, 12 cuts made, four top-10s. Duke in 2007: 14 events, 10 cuts made, four top-10s. Those cuts were missed earlier in the year and the top-10s came in the last two months, whereas three of Toms’s top-10s came in the first two months of the season. But Duke is a rookie who’s never played Colonial. Here’s what Toms has done since 2000: T4, T8, T2, W/D, T44, T3, T30. I’m going with the experience.
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